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Valuing the Aspirational

Over the past few years, politicians, in general, have spoken of motivating those with an aspiration to better themselves across the country. The conservatives will tell you that granting tax cuts to business and building coal-fired power stations will make those businesses more profitable and those profits will be returned to the public through increased wages and job opportunities. The progressives will counter that the best way to increase wages and job opportunities is to ensure those requirements are directly funded through targeted government grants and government funded capital works.

While their methods may vary and both methods have their proponents, the pros and cons can wait for another day. Never the less, we all routinely aspire to improve what we perceive to be our current position in life so if you look at the big picture, the politicians are right.

People are aspirational, otherwise, how do we explain the millions of people paying money for a statistically slight chance of untold wealth to improve their quality of life in one of the many forms of gambling permitted across Australia every week? We could also use the number of people that will queue outside Apple and Samsung stores the day the latest greatest mobile phone is released, all willingly prepared to dispose of their existing perfectly good and functional mobile phone because it isn’t the latest model, as a demonstration of aspirational behaviour.

Those that routinely change the car when the new generation model is released, commit to another mortgage to move to the ‘better end’ of the suburb, the ‘better’ postcode, the catchment of the ‘better’ public school or in fact send their child to private school also demonstrate the innate need to strive for something perceived to be better.

So why do we as a nation readily accept that the newer phone, car or ‘better’ house are worthwhile aims, have politicians that commit to the concept and yet deliberately penalise some who are aspiring to a better life? Refugees who attempt to come to Australia are attempting to create a better life for themselves or their families. It is worth pointing out yet again here that people seeking asylum can do so at any point of their journey from their ‘home’ country and there is no ‘queue’ to start the process under the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention (incidentally signed by Australia’s then Prime Minister and founder of the Liberal Party, Robert Menzies).

Since World War 2, Australia has had a constant flow of refugees. A significant number of people have come from southern Europe, South East Asia and the Middle East. The possibly not so obvious connection between those countries and Australia is that when the particular ethnic group was seeking asylum, Australia and ‘our allies’ were (or had just finished) attempting to bomb the country to oblivion. Others have come from areas of the world that have suffered considerable environmental or economic hardship, generally not well supported by Australian aid efforts, such as parts of Africa.

It’s probably fair to say that deciding to leave your family, familiar surroundings, country and embark on a risky journey without a certain conclusion takes far more determination and demonstrates far more aspirational behaviour than the slight financial pain incurred to someone who can afford to purchase a new mobile phone or fund the relocation of goods and chattels as well as suffering while finding the ‘good’ coffee shop in their new locality.

The abuses to those that are sentenced to exist in sub-human conditions on Nauru and Manus Island because Australia won’t live up to our obligations are well known and documented. Some, who are fortunate enough to tick the right boxes at some stage on their journey to what they perceive to be safety, are permitted to land in Australia. Sadly, a number of these people are victimised for political gain by the same politicians that are claiming to assist the aspirational.

The RMIT/ABC Factcheck Unit recently assessed the claim that African Gangs were again making Melbourne unsafe, this time due to a recent brawl in Collingwood with 200 people apparently involved. It’s an ‘easy’ headline in an environment where a state election is due in a couple of months and the Liberal Party opposition is running on a ‘law and order’ platform. The headline is also demonstrably wrong, the percentage of crime in Melbourne committed by ‘African Gangs’ is around 1%, less than the percentage of crime committed by Australians (obviously) as well as those committed by a number of other nationalities including Indians, New Zealanders and those from the UK. The same dog-whistle was used by the same culprits during the ‘super Saturday’ by-elections as a sop to the those who intended to vote One Nation in Longman (based in northern Brisbane and next to Dutton’s marginal seat of Dickson) and it resulted in an almost 4% increase in the ALP two-party preferred vote.

The Liberal Party can’t have it both ways. If they are there to reward the aspirational, it demonstrates far more aspiration and a belief that life can get better to move away from your known world into a different culture halfway across the world than buying a new mobile phone or increasing the mortgage to purchase the higher specification large 4WD vehicle (on the off chance that one day you will take it off-road). To penalise one and praise the other is duplicity, if not racism.

What do you think?

This article by 2353NM was originally published on The Political Sword.

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  1. Nw England Cocky

    John Howard, vendor of the peoples Telstra to obtain a better superannuation scheme for politicians and senior public servants, has “headland statements”.

    A “headland” is a “cliff” that politicians regularly fall over. It can be a “bluff” which also means “cliff”, but really in the Australian politics context “bluff” means “con”.

    And that has been the strategy of NLP politicians ever since. Use “double speak” so that the voting masses will be told to think one thing while the opposite is really happening.

    The Australian voters got sucked in by the wordsmiths and forgot that NLP politicians are biased against the voters in favour of the foreign owned multinational corporations

  2. Kaye Lee

    Their idea of valuing the aspirational is valuing the accumulators. Greed is good.

    Their idea of “if you have a go, you’ll get a go” means watering down bankruptcy laws, protecting tax concessions for the wealthy, and getting rid of regulations that protect workers and the environment.

  3. DrakeN

    Conflating aspirational with avarice is typical of the cohort of mercenary, kleptocratic, self-serving and reality-denying mob currently in government.

  4. Ill fares the land

    We live in a country (and a world), where we are bombarded on all sides by those who need us to be aspirational. Marketers have learnt well the tricks to make us believe that we need this car, or the bigger house. I will puke if I go to one more dinner party where two 60+ year olds aren’t trying to outdo each other over their solar power system (yes, the number of panels and the size of the inverter and soon, the capacity of the storage battery are all vital “take that” tools in such discussions). I will also puke if I hear two more 60+ couples trying to outdo each other over their holidays – yes, quantity is important, but exotic locations also score big points. We are driven to want more than we actually need, because the underlying need has become outdoing friends and neighbours. In fact, we don’t really even know who we are trying to outdo – it’s just a vague but powerful need, because the advertisers are telling us that everyone else will look at us in awe if we drive past in this car. SUV’s and dual-cabs are marketed to boofheads – who the hell needs an SUV in an urban environment? Well, lots of us apparently. Who needs a 5-bedroom home with 6 bathrooms for a family of 4? Well, we all do apparently. The vomit-inducing weekend supplement in the Australian is totally focussed on showing us $10,000 watches and $1,000,000 cars – all to keep our pointless aspirations inflated.

    And governments have a vested interest in playing this same game – if you are not aspirational, you are one of our society’s numerous bludgers. Yes we know who you all are and we are out to get you, because you are the ones holding the rest of us back. This is the classic capitalist message – those who have nothing deserve it because they make bad choices and are lazy.

    But consider this – welfare fraud is estimated to cost Australia $600 million per year, but tax avoidance, tax fraud and tax evasion cost around $9.0 BILLION per year and that’s before we look at things like the tax cost of negative gearing, unaffordable super concessions for the well-off and the main residence exemption on the homes of the filthy-rich which probably add another $3.0 billion or so to that cost. So who really is the biggest drain on our society? Aspiration is surely not, per se, a bad thing – but it has become an selfish obsession and that, it seems to me, is good for those who accumulate wealth, but a disaster for those who don’t or can’t.

  5. helvityni

    What I find rather telling is how the Liberals always talk about class envy…. LOL

    Now can someone tell me who belongs to this enviable Higher Caste, or is it called aristocracy, and on what basis; religion, possessions, education, ancestry, number of toilets in the home, or what…???

    I see (I know) what I call ‘classy’ people in every walk of life, in any race, amongst some wealthy, amongst many poor, amongst black, brown, yellow, white…amongst civilised well educated, amongst peasants…

    When it comes to money and possessions, at times I have not had much, sometimes more than I need, whatever I have had and whatever I have now, it’s always been enough: I certainly don’t ENVY anyone….

    A friend (not a friend anymore) once asked me: Seeing you are not poor, why do you support Labor….Because I’d like everybody to have enough….

  6. Kaye Lee

    I look at Gina Rinehart, I look at James Packer, I look at Rupert Murdoch…and I know none of them will ever know the contentment I feel. They will never know the joy and support of loving family and friends or the pleasure of sharing and giving.

    Life is a team game.

  7. New England Cocky

    Why do I support the ALP? Because I want everybody to have enough …..great line helvityni!!!

  8. 2353

    hannah – no worries, thanks for reading.

    Kaye Lee – its a shame that our politicians and business leaders don’t realise the can also be the height of aspiration in having family and friends around you as well as giving and sharing.

    helvityni – I’ll second NEC’s comment, great line.

  9. Kyran

    Putting aside the different aspirations that different people will aspire to, however great the differences may be, there is an even more fundamental problem. Not that we shouldn’t aspire to improving our circumstance, but that the only thing this IPA government can offer any of us is aspiration. Aspiration is a wonderful thing, but talk about first world problems. No matter how many times they tell us to aspire to greater things, they cannot get past the reality that aspiration won’t clothe or feed, let alone educate or medicate, us or our families.
    We currently have poverty rating in Australia at more than 30% of us, including children.

    Does anyone remember which PM aspired to eradicating child poverty in the 90’s? The same bloke who oversaw the ‘wages accord’ which was usurped by Little Johnnie to entrench wages stagnation and labour force casualization.
    Our incomes either frozen or decreasing, our costs going up, our realities changing for the worse, and these muppets want to talk about aspiration? Household debt is now kicking around the 200% mark, with people increasingly resorting to putting ‘living expenses’ on the credit card or extending a mortgage. Nobody can pretend that this isn’t a foolhardy approach, but it does mirror that terribly human tendency to believe that things will improve in the future.
    The second biggest purchase in most peoples lives, the vehicle, is no longer counted by the ABS, but by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries. Getting companies to oversee their own data is problematic, but that is a whole different conversation, as their aspirations don’t necessarily include our interests. The figures for vehicle sales, types of vehicles being sold and so on are meant to be ‘an indicator’ of how the economy is travelling. Not so well at the moment.

    All of this at a time when automotive finance companies are offering 0% deals. There are so many economic indicators at the moment that demonstrate our economy and, by extension, our society are travelling very poorly, that are simply dismissed as the grievances of the disenfranchised or the lazy or the ‘un-inspired’. Our companies are doing the best they have done in more than a decade and our CEO’s are getting salaries that would make your eyes water. Our leaders say we should aspire to be like them, all the while ignoring that if we ignored the laws to the extent they ignored the laws, we would be exercising our aspirations in the confines of a prison cell – albeit a privately run prison, thereby enhancing the financial circumstance of the corporate owner.
    It was a long time ago that Oscar Wilde wrote his 1891 essay, ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism’.

    “In “The Soul of Man” Wilde argues that, under capitalism, “the majority of people spoil their lives by an unhealthy and exaggerated altruism—are forced, indeed, so to spoil them”: instead of realising their true talents, they waste their time solving the social problems caused by capitalism, without taking their common cause away. Thus, caring people “seriously and very sentimentally set themselves to the task of remedying the evils that they see in poverty but their remedies do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it” because, as Wilde puts it, “the proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible”.”
    It’s well worth a read. There are some quotes from it that are appropriate in any conversation about aspiration, if only to temper the conversation with reality.
    “To recommend thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less.”
    “The only thing that one really knows about human nature is that it changes. Change is the one quality we can predicate of it. The systems that fail are those that rely on the permanency of human nature, and not on its growth and development.”
    Or there is that other radical, MLK.
    Excerpts from Dr. King’s Nobel Peace Prize address in 1964:

    “A second evil which plagues the modern world is that of poverty. Like a monstrous octopus, it projects it’s nagging, prehensile tentacles in lands and villages all over the world. Almost two thirds of the peoples of the world go to bed hungry at night. They are undernourished, ill-housed, and shabbily clad. Many of them have no houses or beds to sleep in. Their only beds are the sidewalks of the cities and the dusty roads of the villages. Most of these poverty-stricken children of God have never seen a physician or a dentist.”
    “So it is obvious that if a man is to redeem his spiritual and moral ‘lag,’ he must go all out to bridge the social and economic gulf between the ‘haves’ and ‘have not’s’ of the world. Poverty is one of the most urgent items on the agenda of modern life.”
    “There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it.”
    “The time has come for an all- out world war against poverty.”
    “The rich nations must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the underdeveloped, school the unschooled, and feed the unfed. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.’”

    Martin Luther King Quotes on Poverty

    This current mob are aspiring to make third world terms and conditions the norm in Australia. Of course they want to talk about aspiration. The most significant aspiration is the blind ambition of the current incumbent, however indescribably ill-suited he may be.
    This is getting painful. How many PM’s should we aspire to till Christmas? That’s about the only valuing of the aspirational that fits, isn’t it?
    Thank you 2353 and commenters. Take care

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